There’s nothing sexy about a bottle of beer. That beer commercial where the dorky guy is holding an icy cold one and talking to an ultra-hot swimsuit model might go viral on YouTube but it’s not because of the curves on the bottle. When you ask the cute girl who works in the adjacent cubicle to grab a beer at 5:00 she’ll say “yes” because of your sex appeal, not the brewski’s. And when you’re tired and sweaty after a Saturday of golf or cleaning out the garage, you’ll likely reward yourself with a beer, not because it’s sexy but because it’s mellow, uncomplicated, and incapable of making you feel like you should shower before you sip. A beer cocktail on the other hand, is capital S sexy. Beer cocktails are libations that combine anywhere from a splash of beer to an entire bottle with hard alcohol. It’s a delicious concoction that’s showing up on specialty cocktail menus in the best bars and on the glossy pages of popular culinary magazines. In an era where people are infusing Skittles into vodka and reducing Margaritas to one-slurp liquid “gnocchi” spheres, beer, more than any other alcohol, has proven its relevance amongst mixologists and cocktail connoisseurs who value imagination and creativity just as much as taste.
In many ways we have beer to thank for paving the way for the craft cocktail revolution. When craft beers began to sweep the nation well over a decade ago, people whom had only ever stocked their fridges with the brands their televisions recommended became exposed to a new world of quality ales packed with flavor and depth. The beer from micro-breweries reached such high demand that name brand ales were forced to share valuable super market shelf space with a more expensive and often tastier competitors. This small shift in the average person’s beer selection process paved the way for a willingness, even an enthusiasm, to try new cocktails. Rose’s lime juice, a concoction of high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors was replaced with, wait for it…actual fresh lime juice. Shocking, right? Bartenders traded red dye #4 maraschino cherries for homemade batches of cherry garnishes. People in bars who always ordered the same vodka or bourbon because that’s what they watched their dad or grandfather drink were willing to risk their hard earned ten-spot on that new brand in the cool bottle that a friend recommended. Beer, a beverage that has been consumed and enjoyed well before Jesus, is still a trendsetter.
But there are some beer lovers who believe that adding other ingredients to good ale ruins it. During a recent flight back from Las Vegas we sat next to a man who works for a large wine distributor. We got to talking about acceptable wines for sangria which led to discussing the use of beer in cocktails. He was adamant that good wine or beer should not be wasted as an ingredient in a cocktail. “Save the cheap stuff for that.” Anthony Strange, the beer expert for Beverages & More thinks otherwise. He believes that “great beer should be used wherever beer is required.” Maybe some day small-batch distilleries can create mini beer bottles with mixologists and single-serve beer cocktails in mind.
There are also those who have never even heard of a beer cocktail. When I called Masterson’s Catering, a leading wedding caterer in Louisville, Kentucky to discuss the popularity of beer cocktails as a bride’s signature drink, the woman on the other end of the phone with a gentle twang said, “And what exactly do you mean by beer cocktail? What is that exactly?” When I explained it as a drink that combines beer with a spirit like vodka, she laughed and said, “Well I like beer and I like vodka. So it makes sense that they’d taste pretty good together!” Perhaps the pink and purple themed drinks need to run their course before brides and grooms are ready to fill their crystal goblets with beer.
If you’ve already tried a few beer cocktails then you’ve undoubtedly told all your friends how amazing they are and probably have a few favorite recipes you can rattle off by heart. If you haven’t taken a taste of beer served on the rocks or straight up, walk into any bar ask the bartender what she’d recommend. If it’s the kind of joint that doesn’t subscribe to the muddling, infusing, or fresh-produce-garnishes-only trend, try ordering one of the original beer cocktails of all time: the Irish car bomb. This drink is made by dropping a shot of Irish whiskey into a pint of Guinness and slamming it right down. Or if you’re like Mr. Strange, mix three parts of Guinness to one part whiskey. If you’re wearing your mixology hat at home, start with a few simple beer cocktail recipes like the beer buster, grill quencher, or Michaelada. What you’ll experience is a mellow cocktail that boasts flavor, depth, and even a splash of sexy.